The marketing journey of a privately owned builders’ merchant

on 20 May, 2013

Marketing management became the process of management for this privately owned builders’ merchant when taking the business forward.

The first thing carried out was a market audit, as market audits are an important managerial activity to help understand key issues about your business and where in the market your business fits in. The result of not carrying out market audits is that business intelligence will be missed and wrong conclusions made regarding future business strategy. It was therefore imperative that a market audit was carried out.

Once the market audit was complete, the merchant undertook quantative research to measure opinions of customers’ views on their business, and that of their competitors. To undertake this research the key business attributes of the business (i.e. service, quality of products sold, deliveries on time, technical support etc.) are measured 1 to 7 and benchmarked against their competitors. Pleasing for the merchant was that 70 of the 350 customers completed the research.

When the research was complete the shareholders could see for the first time since the business was started in the mid 60s that in the eyes of their customers they had an overall 13 percent better rating than their competitors. This gave the shareholders the confidence in knowing that they were on the right track, but after assessing these results further progress could also be made on individual business attributes.

They then embarked on a plan for social media and public relations, and key to this was to link communication with research. For example, if customers thought service was poor then two actions were taken: first the builder’s merchant would deal with the reality (i.e. improve service) and secondly better communication to their customers would take place relating to an improvement in service. These PR articles were then distributed by social media (Facebook, Twitter and Google+), direct mail, the company blog and the website. As this is a repeat function, over time the perception of the merchant in the eyes of the customers and non-customers began to change. Customers who may have stopped purchasing some time ago began to come back. Therefore there is a link between research, marketing communications and increased sales.

Now that the management team were busy putting changes in place to review actions from the research, contractors developed a new website and social media. In doing this the merchant leap-frogged its marketing from doing very little to carrying out best practice!

For example: communication to customers in the past was either carried out by direct mail or the odd advert, whereas today the merchant can communicate at speed via a brand new CMS website, over 600 followers on Twitter, 300 Facebook likes, Google+ and its own blog. In addition the merchant has had over 18 press releases and 6 newsletters circulated. This all resulted in communication to a new and existing customer base being totally transformed while the company is going in the right strategic direction (based on a solid understanding of the market and their customers’ opinions) and sales are up in a declining market.

One part of the new website alone gets on average four brand-new enquiries a day from new customers and so with an existing customer base of 350 this could double their customer base within four months. There is also a three-year website plan in place and in year two, online trading will commence once content has built up web traffic even further .When online trading starts, sales will increase, giving an even better return on marketing spend.

Tony Crutcher is a building materials sales and marketing specialist.

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